1st Mariner Bank buyers close on sale

Investors who tried for years to get a stake in 1st Mariner Bank have closed on their purchase of the Baltimore institution.

New CEO Jack E. Steil and president Robert D. Kunisch Jr. said Wednesday that the deal was finalized Tuesday night. The purchasing group they're part of, organized under the name "RKJS Bank," paid $18.7 million and agreed to put about $92 million in cash into the bank to recapitalize it.


Steil said the new management team spent the first day talking to workers.

"We're just meeting with employees on a very informal basis, going from department to department, thanking them for their loyalty and work that they put in through the whole process," he said.


Founded in 1995, 1st Mariner has about $925 million in deposits and 16 branches in Baltimore city and county as well as Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties. It employs about 430 people.

1st Mariner — the region's largest independent bank — struggled for years to right itself after soured housing-bubble mortgages ate into its available capital. Its parent company filed for bankruptcy protection in February and sold the bank through a court-supervised auction.

The parent company changed its name Tuesday — a sale requirement to avoid confusion. First Mariner Bancorp is now Capital Trust Holdings Inc.

The 1st Mariner purchasers are a mix of local and out-of-state players led by New York-based Priam Capital, an investment firm run by a Baltimore native. Among the local investors are Josh Fidler, co-chairman of real estate developer Chesapeake Realty Partners in Owings Mills, Hunt Valley private-equity firm Keyser Capital and the two bankers taking the helm.

Priam, Steil and Kunisch tried for more than three years to get a stake in 1st Mariner. Their group won the bankruptcy auction after a drama-filled few days in which their competitor, a Pennsylvania bank, initially was named the winner.